Learn English – Origin of the word or slur pisshead in British vocabulary


I have read the definitions for "taking a piss" etc but in many recent films out of Great Britain I have heard what appears to be a very vulagar reference to to anyone from the old Indian sub-continent (I am assuming) as a pisshead. It's my guess one wouldn't wish to say that to anyones face. What is the origin of this word and is it the insult directed at the race I assume it is? Thank you.

Best Answer

The term has two meanings; its original usage for a heavy drinker appears to be an early 20th c. expression from New Zeland, while the later usage for a stupid bore is an AmE one from the ‘70s/80s. The term doesn’t appear to have or have had a racial connotation.

Eric Patridge A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English defines pisshead as:

A habitually heavy drinker, an alcoholic.

Perhaps of New Zeland origin, early 20th century, by 1955 also British

The Dictionary of American Slang gives a different connotation of the term:

A despicable person; a stupid bore; asshole: who made such a pisshead of herself (1970s+)

The Green’s Dictionary of Slang defines both usages:

piss-head n.

  1. [1950s+] a heavy drinker; also in attrib. use [piss n. (3b) + -head sfx (4)].
  2. [1980s+] an obnoxious person [piss n. (1) + -head sfx (4)].

In heavy drinker piss refers to:

[1910s+] any sort of weak or otherwise unpalatable drink, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

while head refers to

[1920s+] used in var. combs. meaning a habitual user of a drug or a particular drink, e.g. a-head n.